Your ability to navigate co-parenting experiences for your young adult and adult child without stress and strain is one of the most important gifts you give them. Every piece of foundation you’ve built to show each other respectful cordiality, maintain healthy boundaries, and stay child-focused allows your most precious one to enjoy his or her special event free from unresolved divorce issues.
You owe your child no less. If you haven’t done this already, it’s time you pull it together and put the past where it belongs; show up to the present for your child in a way that honors his/her special moments.
When I work with parents initiating the divorce process, I ask them to imagine their child’s high school graduation. Imagining that they’re sitting on opposite sides of the auditorium, we walk through the experience of watching their graduate – sitting next to his/her best friend from middle school – move the tassel from one side of the cap to the other and then stand up and toss it in the air as high as possible. We hear the processional begin and imagine watching the kids file out into the foyer. Each parent begins to text “congratulations…” Often, one is or both are holding back tears.
Then I ask: “What do you want your grad to be thinking about as he/she walks out?”
- “Oh god, what should I do – should I talk to Mom first or Dad? … I’m with my Dad this week, maybe I should talk to him first. What if Mom gets upset and leaves?”
OR, do you hope he/she will be thinking…
- “Oh good – they’ll both be the Coke machine! Sweet…can’t wait to see them!”
These are choices that we as co-parents set up for our children from this moment forward. Strong co-parenting takes the stressing and guessing out of special events for kids. Parents take care of their own feelings, focus on their children, and enjoy life-cycle events with honor.
Strong co-parenting does not require friendship. This past summer, I attended a wedding where both parents walked their daughter down the aisle together – just as she had always hoped and imagined. This act of co-parenting occurred after years of never sitting on the same side of the gym for an athletic event. As the new bride’s husband walked her back after the ceremony, her father offered one arm to his ex-wife’s elderly mother and the other to his ex-wife and escorted them both back down the aisle. That’s strong, respectful co-parenting.
Talk to your bride/groom about what she/he wants from you regarding rehearsal dinner, family photos, ceremony and reception – let your children design what’s meaningful to THEM. Be gracious with each other at every step – from engagement party through reception. Honor each other. Make your adult child’s special events as seamless and as memorable as possible. Your commitment to being the best parents you can be becomes a tremendous act of service that pays dividends in your child’s memories of their special day forever.
Remember: Divorce ends a relationship, but doesn’t delete a family. The two of you will always be your child’s parents – an enduring and indelible relationship.
If you’re struggling with how to come together for your child’s special events, or your significant other is struggling with how to handle you being a part of these important “parent” events with your co-parent, consult a co-parent coach. Get support and guidance for how everyone can successfully share space with ease so kids can have their moment in the spotlight. And cherish the realization of your “job well-done!”
For more, read or listen to “The Co-Parents’ Handbook” available on Amazon/Audible.